Breaking from convention,the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence today decided to call the three service Chiefs on April 20 to seek their views on the state of defence preparedness pointed out by Army Chief Gen. V K Singh in his leaked letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Public Accounts Committee had summoned the three Chiefs last year in connection with the CAGs report on the Canteen Stores Department (CSD). The Naval Chief was represented by the vice-chief; the other two Chiefs had presented themselves before the PAC.
Usually,the vice-chiefs represent their forces before the standing committee. Over the years,this has become a convention and part of the division of labour within the services hierarchy.
An indication of what could be in store at the next meeting came when Congress MP Manish Tewari was learnt to have asked whether enough war reserves would be available if hostilities were to begin,say,the next day. The Army vice-chief conceded that while war-fighting stocks must last 40 days,in some areas like Armour Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot (a special tank ammunition),stocks are down to four days. The vice-chief,however,clarified that this did not mean that tanks would run dry.
At the last committee meeting on April 4,Akali Dals Naresh Gujral had asked the chairman to summon the Army Chief in the context of his letter to the PM. On Monday,however,the committee took the view that all three Chiefs should be called,as the panel needed to examine the whole spectrum of defence preparedness.
Sources said that the committee would also look at capacity and operationalisation of capacity in terms of threat perception and geo-political strategy.
The Army Chief had said the Armys war-fighting capabilities were seriously impaired. He had given similar views in a letter to the defence minister in February.